George to have been a trooper once upon a time.
A special contrast Mr. George makes to the Smallweed family. Trooper was never yet billeted upon a household more unlike him. It is a broadsword to an oyster-knife. His developed figure and their stunted forms, his large manner filling any amount of room and their little narrow pinched ways, his sounding voice and their sharp spare tones, are in the strongest and the strangest opposition. As he sits in the middle of the grim parlour, leaning a little forward, with his hands upon his thighs and his elbows squared, he looks as though, if he remained there long, he would absorb into himself the whole family and the whole four-roomed house, extra little back-kitchen and all.
"Do you rub your legs to rub life into 'em?" he asks of Grandfather Smallweed after looking round the room.
"Why, it's partly a habit, Mr. George, and--yes--it partly helps the circulation," he replies.
"The cir-cu-la-tion!" repeats Mr. George, folding his arms upon his chest and seeming to become two sizes larger. "Not much of that, I should think."
"Truly I'm old, Mr. George," says Grandfather Smallweed. "But I can carry my years. I'm older than HER," nodding at his wife, "and see what she is? You're a brimstone chatterer!" with a sudden revival of his late hostility.
"Unlucky old soul!" says Mr. George, turning his head in that direction. "Don't scold the old lady. Look at her here, with her poor cap half off her head and her poor hair all in a muddle. Hold up, ma'am. That's better. There we are! Think of your mother, Mr. Smallweed," says Mr. George, coming back to his seat from assisting her, "if your wife an't enough."
"I suppose you were an excellent son, Mr. George?" the old man hints with a leer.
The colour of Mr. George's face rather deepens as he replies, "Why no. I wasn't."
"I am astonished at it."
"So am I. I ought to have been a good son, and I think I meant to have been one. But I wasn't. I was a thundering bad son, that's the long and the short of it, and never was a credit to anybody."
"Surprising!" cries the old man.
"However," Mr. George resumes, "the less said about it, the better now. Come! You know the agreement. Always a pipe out of the two months' interest! (Bosh! It's all correct. You needn't be afraid to order the pipe. Here's the new bill, and here's the two months' interest-money, and a devil-and-all of a scrape it is to get it together in my business.)"
Mr. George sits, with his arms folded, consuming the family and the parlour while Grandfather Smallweed is assisted by Judy to two black leathern cases out of a locked bureau, in one of which he secures the document he has just received, and from the other takes another similar document which he hands to Mr. George, who twists it up for a pipelight. As the old man inspects, through his glasses, every up-stroke and down-stroke of both documents before he releases them from their leathern prison, and as he counts the money three times over and requires Judy to say every word she utters at least twice, and is as tremulously slow of speech and action as it is possible to be, this business is a long time in progress. When it is quite concluded, and not before, he disengages his ravenous eyes and fingers from it and answers Mr. George's last remark by saying, "Afraid to order the pipe? We are not so mercenary as that, sir. Judy, see directly to the pipe and the glass of cold brandy-and-water for Mr. George."
The sportive twins, who have been looking straight before them all this time except when they have been engrossed by the black leathern cases, retire together, generally disdainful of the visitor, but leaving him to the old man as two young cubs might leave a traveller to the parental bear.
"And there you sit, I suppose, all the day long, eh?" says Mr. George with folded arms.
"Just so, just so," the old man nods.
"And don't you occupy yourself at all?"
"I watch the fire--and the boiling and the roasting--"
"When there is any," says Mr.